If you’re like me, you probably became fascinated with lightning as a child as it was fun to count the seconds between a lightning strike and the bolt of thunder to follow. Or watching a far off storm on a summer night with its display of ‘heat’ lightning. Those were neat experiences that never seemed threatening.
I did, however, listen to my parents to get inside to shelter when the t-storms were near and the possibility existed of getting hit by lightning. I never really knew until now that even the safety of your home or your car with its rubber tire isolation may not be enough.
Recently, my mother experienced this firsthand. Her house was virtually destroyed by lightning and it wasn’t even a direct hit. Lightning struck a tree in the backyard. From there it traveled to her well and blew up the well casing. It followed the water line into the house burning the deck along the way. Siding was blown off the house with insulation strewn about.
She has heavy steel Bilco entry doors leading to her crawlspace underneath the house. Despite being shut, those were blown open. The lightning traveled under the house and blew up her well pump and furnace. The paint cans stored under the house had their lids blown off and the paint spilled all over.
It then actually ruptured the floor supports (later we found out 22 floor joists had been split) and cracked the walls and ceilings. The house had actually been moved 4 inches off the foundation. Everything was knocked off the walls and a heavy china hutch and dining room table were lifted off the floor and slammed back down breaking their legs.
My mother was standing in the kitchen when the lightning hit. She was actually lifted off the floor some inches when the floors ruptured. Luckily, she was fine physically. A neighbor had been watching as it hit and witnessed three fireballs roll across the lawn from the well and travel into the crawlspace.
The fire chief and insurance adjuster that have been out have both said they have never seen anything like it. Her home resembled being hit by an earthquake and was damaged from end to end.
Insurance will take care of the house as it has to be condemned but it could easily have been much worse if she had been standing in the wrong spot.
So make sure you take those warnings seriously. Thinking your safe in a storm by simply standing under a pavilion or overhang just isn’t true.